9 September 2017

Snow Farm, Cardrona Valley

Press Release September 9 2017

Nature put winter firmly back into the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ for the last day of cross-country competition at Wanaka’s Snow Farm.

New snow drifting across groomed tracks threatened to delay the Classic Mass Start, the final cross-country event in the FIS Australia New Zealand Cup (ANC) series, but ski racers are made tough and the weather relented to make for exciting racing in wintery conditions.

The Americans stamped their dominance over the day, taking all the podium spots but one.

In the 10 kilometre women’s race, top-seeded Freestyle winner Jessie Diggins led a group of five from the start before pulling away and losing them, increasing her lead in each of the three laps to take a comfortable win in 34 minutes and 50 seconds.

For Diggins, it was the perfect way to ease into racing before the next season. “It’s been really cool training and racing here at the Snow Farm. It’s been fun and I look forward to coming back again.”

Caitlin Patterson improved on her third place in the Sprint to take second just 27 seconds behind Diggins, and second placed Sprint finalist Ida Sargent picked up third 34 seconds later.

Two of their American teammates followed them home before sixth-placed Korean Chae-won Lee broke the trend.

In the men’s 15 kilometre race, Benjamin Lustgarten continued his winning ways in varying weather conditions.

With a first in Freestyle and second in Sprint in the last two days, Lustgarten led the four-lap race from the start, breaking away with fellow American Adam Martin. But they couldn’t lose Japan’s Kaichi Naruse, who was also having a productive Winter Games, having pushed Lustgarten hard with a second in Freestyle and third in Sprint.

At the start of the final lap Lustgarten pulled away strongly up Sprint Hill and although Martin left Naruse behind he couldn’t catch his teammate. Lustgarten finished strongly in 47 minutes and 51 seconds, with Martin 23 seconds behind and Naruse just 10 seconds later for third.

Lustgarten thinks he made his move too late. “It was a brutal race and I should have pushed harder earlier than the last lap because I didn’t want a sprint but in the end I had enough in the tank to hold the others off.”

With racing complete and snow falling again, Games CEO Arthur Klap could finally consider relaxing: “It’s a mix of relief and excitement to be able to complete the full on-snow programme with the cross-county event in true New Zealand conditions.”

Australia New Zealand Cup winners were Australians Phillip Bellingham and Barbara Jezersek.